“It’s a hard job, but it’s not a real job” – Mike Clayton, circa 1997.
It is unquestionably true that no human is entitled to play golf for a living. Clayton is right that professional golf is not a ‘real’ job and millions of people around the world who do very real, very hard and very important jobs (often for comparatively little return) would concur.
But it is also unquestionably true that those who dedicate the time, effort and emotion required to ride the rollercoaster that is professional golf – for our entertainment – are worthy of our admiration and respect.
There is no more cruel sport in the world than golf and there may be no more cruel golf examination than Qualifying School.
For those aspiring to play the LPGA Tour next year, the 2021 Q-School was an eight round marathon played over two weeks and two states with 45 cards handed out from an initial field of 110.
It’s the highest stakes game any of those taking part will ever play, no matter what they go on to achieve in their careers, because if they don’t survive here there is no career. Well, not for at least another year, anyway.
"There is no more cruel sport in the world than golf and there may be no more cruel golf examination than Qualifying School." - Rod Morri.
At the top of the leaderboard there was some stunning golf, Korea’s Na Rin An winning with a score of 33-under for the 144 holes.
Also living up to high expectations were former World No.1 amateur and runner-up Pauline Roussin-Bouchard of France, Thailand’s Attiya Thitikul (who finished third at 26-under) and our own star in the making Steph Kyriacou who was T16 at 11-under.
But it is further down the standings where the real stories of tragedy and triumph unfold and have done since the concept of Qualifying School was first introduced on the PGA Tour in 1965.
Consider Australia’s Karis Davidson, a regular on the Japan LPGA Tour prior to the COVID pandemic and seemingly cruising through seven rounds at 9-under-par and comfortably inside the cut line.
But her head must have been spinning after dropping five shots in the first nine holes of the final round to fall outside the projected score required to earn a card.
Even us rank amateurs can understand how hard it is to recover from a start as catastrophic as that so for the transplanted Scot to shoot even par on the back nine – and secure status with no shots to spare – will likely go down as some of the best golf of her life.
On the flip side, spare a thought for England’s Meg Maclaren, a two-time NSW Women’s Open winner and former The Thing About Golf podcast guest.
Starting the final day four-under and in good position, what was shaping as an exciting opportunity in 2022 was derailed with back-to-back double bogeys on her opening two holes.
In the space of 20 or so minutes, all her effort had unravelled and, like 28 others in the field, Maclaren finished outside the top-45 and ties and now faces another 12 months playing one rung down the professional ladder.
That’s a bitter pill for all those players to swallow and while all no doubt realise it is not the end of the world, that doesn’t make it any easier.
It might not be a ‘real’ job but Q-School always proves that professional golf is indeed a ‘hard’ job.
Perhaps one of the hardest of all.